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From reading the rules, it appears that level 6 Circle of the Moon druids should be able to wild shape into a flying beast.

Many sites on the internet suggest that they cannot.

From reading the rules (which are at the end of this post), every time for non-moon druids at 2 and 4, it calls out non-flying. For moon druids at level 2, it says must check Wild Shape or Beast Shape table.

However, for Moon druids at level 6, no such disclaimer exists. Every other location speaking of CR limits includes fly/swim limits but not here. Does that mean Level 6 Moon Druids can wild shape into flying beasts?

Rules as Written for wild shape for non-Circle of the Moon druids:

Wild Shape Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before. You can use this feature twice. You regain expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.

Your druid level determines the beasts you can transform into, as shown in the Beast Shapes table. At 2nd level, for example, you can transform into any beast that has a challenge rating of 1/4 or lower that doesn’t have a flying or swimming speed.

... table showing that level 8 can fly (with an example of Giant eagle)

Wild Shape Improvement At 4th level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before of challenge rating 1/2 or lower that doesn't have a flying speed. You can use this feature twice. You regain expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.

Wild Shape Improvement At 8th level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before of challenge rating 1 or lower. You can use this feature twice. You regain expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.

Circle of the Moon Rules as Written:

Circle Forms The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1 (you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there).

Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.

...

Circle Forms The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.

Summary:

DNDBeyond has post suggesting that Moon druids start to get flying at level 8, which seems pretty damning. However the way the rules are written, every other single place CR is listed, it includes flying/swimming restrictions. At level 8 for non-Moon druids, it does not explicitly state they can fly, it just does not say they cannot fly. This is identical for level 6 Moon druids, suggesting they can fly. For other places in the rules, where higher level text does not include verbiage from lower level text, it means the verbiage excluded no longer applies.

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3 Answers 3

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No flight before level 8

Several of your quotes were introduced by DND Beyond, but are not present in the PHB. Specifically those that start:

Wild Shape Improvement
At 4th level...

Wild Shape Improvement
At 8th level...

Circle Forms
The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 6th level...".

These, lets call them non-features, don't actually exist. They were added to DND Beyond, presumably as reminders that a previous level's feature has changed. In doing so, they restate some of the previous feature while highlighting the changes.

You've identified the pattern that "every other single place CR is listed, it includes flying/swimming restrictions", but this pattern likewise doesn't exist. It's merely an illusion brought about by the non-features.

If it's any solace, you aren't the first to be lead astray by DND Beyond's unnecessary reformatting.

The actual rules

In the PHB there are only two relevant quotes. Wild Shape, which states:

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before. You can use this feature twice. You regain expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.

Your druid level determines the beasts you can transform into, as shown in the Beast Shapes table. At 2nd level, for example, you can transform into any beast that has a challenge rating of 1/4 or lower that doesn't have a flying or swimming speed.

Beast Shapes

Level Max. CR Limitations Example
2nd 1/4 No flying or swimming speed Wolf
4th 1/2 No flying speed Crocodile
8th 1 Giant eagle

And Circle Forms, which states:

The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1 (you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there).

Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.

When Circle Forms' last sentence isn't misquoted separately from the rest of the feature (as DND Beyond has done, unfortunately) it is clear that the entire feature is subject to the table's limitations. Hence a Moon Druid can't wildshape into a beast with a flying speed before level 8.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “it is clear that the entire feature is subject to the table's limitations,” Uh, no, it isn’t? “Starting at 2nd level, you can […] but must abide by the other limitations [on the table]. Starting at 6th level, you can transform [without any mention of the table].” The limitations you say are “clearly” applied to the entire feature are mentioned only in the sentence referring to what you can do at 2nd level. It is not applied to the ability at 6th level, or to the ability as a whole. The querent is rules lawyering here, but they have a case. You can’t just assert they’re “clearly” wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan While that sentence doesn't say "you must obey the other limitations on the table", it equally doesn't say you can't cast 9th level wizard spells as a bonus action. So there is that; why go for "I can fly" when you could wish instead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk It does say you can transform into creatures etc etc, without apparent reference to any limitations from the accompanying table. This isn’t just a random ability pulled out of nowhere; it literally says it’s something you can do, and doesn’t state limitations. There is no comparison between this argument and just randomly casting 9ths. I’m not even arguing that the argument is right—see my own answer—all I’m saying is that it isn’t “clear” that it’s wrong, that our answers are supposed to be backed up with more than just “clearly I’m right.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan yes it does "you ignore the Max. CR column of the ...." the second paragraph in context with first continues to abide by the other limitations in the Beast Shapes table. Sure you can ignore that if you get rid of context... But the English language is all about context. \$\endgroup\$
    – Questor
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 21:59
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You are still limited at level 6

Under Combat Wild Shape -> Circle Forms it say:

The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1 (you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there).

Looking at the table:

Level Max. CR Limitations Example
2nd 1/4 No flying or swimming speed Wolf
4th 1/2 No flying speed Crocodile
8th 1 Giant eagle

You can see that the limitation does not get lifted until level 8. So even though you can shape into more powerful creatures, they cannot fly until level 8.


Since this seems to be the crux of the problem, the Circle Forms feature continues with:

Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.

This does not nullify, nor modify, the previous paragraph. It is merely a new rate at which the Druid can change into more powerful beasts.

Look at the beginning of that same parenthetical, "you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there". If that whole column is ignored, all we have is that the Druid can shape into a CR 1 creature at level 2, a CR 1 creature that can swim at level 4 and a CR 1 creature that can fly at level 8.

The feature goes on to supply us this new rate to determine the Max CR starting at level 6th. Does this mean you should also stop ignoring the Max CR column? No!

You cannot choose to use one half of the phrase but not the other.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The entire point of the question is that the statement that you “must abide by the other limitations [on the Beast Shapes table]” is found only in the sentence that begins with “Starting at 2nd level,” and does not appear in the next paragraph, which begins with “Starting at 6th level.” The querent clearly rules-lawyering here, but outright ignoring that and not even addressing the argument they made simply doesn’t answer the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan - addressed \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can someone explain why @KRyan 's comment is still getting upvotes? I addressed both parts of the argument, but people keep agreeing that I haven't. What am I missing? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 2:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I find the voting on things in this question completely mystifying, myself. Sometimes the Stack is just like that, especially with Hot Network Questions, which this was. Personally I find your treatment of the situation a little short—particularly relative to the rest of your answer which I find kind of irrelevant—and maybe a bit hand-wavey, but I wouldn’t have expected more upvotes on that comment at this stage. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 4:05
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Much of your evidence is based on unofficial “clarifications”

As Ruse’s answer describes in depth. These additions by dndbeyond.com aren’t part of the official rules, and could imply something that the official rules do not. For the official rules, we have to go back to the Player’s Handbook.

The Player’s Handbook is not as clear as it might be, but “no” is still the only possible answer

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1 (you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there).

Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.

(Player’s Handbook, pg. 69)

As you note, the statement that you “must abide by the other limitations” “of the Beast Shapes table” is part of the sentence that begins with “Starting at 2nd level,” and the sentence that begins “Starting at 6th level,” doesn’t mention those limitations. In general, there’d be a decent case that limitations mentioned in the sentence describing the 2nd-level ability don’t apply to the 6th-level ability unless mentioned again, or otherwise referenced, which they are not here.

But in this specific case, your case has a couple of flaws:

  • Treating the “Starting at 6th level,” sentence as introducing a truly independent ability quickly falls apart, because it says only that “you can transform into a beast” without providing any rules for how you do that, what’s required, and what you get for doing so—all of those rules are in Wild Shape, but this sentence doesn’t mention Wild Shape. The only way to know this ability is based on Wild Shape is to reference the previous sentence about the 2nd-level ability, but once you’ve done that, you have no excuse for ignoring the rest of that sentence.

  • The mention of the other limitations on the table in the first sentence appears within a parenthetical—and that matters here. The parentheses mean that this is a not-strictly-necessary explanation of what they mean: it is equivalent to saying

    Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1. By “transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as,” we mean you can ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but you must still abide by the other limitations there.

    Now it becomes very clear that when the second sentence uses “transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as” again, it means the same thing—and so the same definition of what it means, including the bit about the other limitations on the Beast Shapes table, still applies.

Ultimately, either of these is damning here: you simply cannot accurately read these two sentences and see them as wholly independent and the second as being free from the limitations mentioned in the first. Trying ignores how those limitations were presented, and to be consistent about it would leave you with insufficient information in the second sentence to produce a workable game ability.

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